Young People Ask . . .

What’s Wrong With Dating Secretly?

Jessica* was caught in a dilemma. It all started when a classmate named Jeremy began showing interest in her. “He was very cute,” she says, “and my friends said he was the most decent boy I’d ever meet. Several girls had tried to start a relationship with him, but he wasn’t interested in them. He liked only me.”

Before long, Jeremy asked Jessica out. Jessica says: “I explained to him that as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I wouldn’t be allowed to date someone who wasn’t of my faith. But then Jeremy had an idea. He asked, ‘Why can’t we just date behind your parents’ backs?’”

IF SOMEONE you were attracted to made such a suggestion, how would you respond? You might be surprised to learn that, at first, Jessica went along with Jeremy’s plan. “I was convinced that if I dated him, I could make him learn to love Jehovah,” she says. How did things turn out? We’ll find out later. First, let’s see how even an otherwise exemplary Christian youth like Jessica could unwittingly get caught in the snare of secret dating.

Why They Do It

Some youths pair off at an early age. “I have seen children with boyfriends and girlfriends at 10 or 11!” says Susan, in Britain. Why are they so eager? The natural attraction of the opposite sex and a dose of peer pressure—often that’s all it takes. “Your hormones are rushing and everyone else at school is going out with someone,” says Lois, in Australia.

But why do some date secretly? “Probably they’re scared of what their parents will say,” says Jeffrey, in Britain. David, in South Africa, feels similarly. “They know their parents would not approve,” he says, “so they don’t tell them.” A girl in Australia named Jane points out another possibility. “Secret dating is a rebellion thing,” she says. “If you feel that you’re not being treated like the young adult you think you are, you decide that you’re going to do what you want and just not tell your parents. Keeping it a secret is easy.”

Of course, the Bible commands you to obey your parents. (Ephesians 6:1) And if your parents object to your dating, they must surely have good reasons. For example, if they are Jehovah’s Witnesses, your parents would want you to date only a fellow believer—and then only when both of you are in a position to consider marriage.* Don’t be surprised, though, if you find yourself thinking:

I feel left out because everyone is dating except me.

I’m attracted to someone who doesn’t share my faith.

I would like to go out with a fellow Christian, even though I’m too young to marry.

You probably know what your parents would say about these statements. And deep down, you know that your parents are right. Still, you may feel like Manami, in Japan, who says: “The pressure to date is so strong that I sometimes doubt my stand. For kids today it’s unthinkable not to be dating.” Some in that situation have begun to date and have hidden the matter from their parents. How?

“We Were Told to Keep It a Secret”

The very term “secret dating” suggests a measure of deception. Some keep their dating secret by communicating primarily over the phone or the Internet. In public they are just friends, while their e-mails, text messages, and phone calls tell a completely different story.

Caleb, in Nigeria, reveals another sly tactic. “Some youths who secretly date use code words and nicknames when they are talking among their peers so that others will not grasp what they’re talking about,” he says. Another method is to arrange for a group activity, only to pair off later. James, in Britain, says: “Once, a group of us were invited to meet at a location, only to discover that the whole thing had been set up so that two in the group could be together. We were told to keep it a secret.”

Frequently, as James points out, secret dating is carried out with the cooperation of friends. “At least one friend knows about the situation but chooses not to say anything because of a ‘don’t-tell’ mentality,” says Carol, in Scotland.

Often, blatant dishonesty is involved. “Many keep their dating secret by lying to their parents about where they go,” says Beth, in Canada. Misaki, in Japan, admits that she did just that. “I had to make up stories carefully,” she says. “I was cautious not to tell any lies other than those related to my dating so that I would not lose my parents’ trust.”

The Pitfalls of Secret Dating

If you are tempted to date secretly—or if you are already doing so—you need to consider the following.

Where will my deceitful course lead? Do you intend to marry the person reasonably soon? “Dating without the intention of marriage is like advertising something you’re not selling,” says Evan, in the United States. Proverbs 13:12 says: “Expectation postponed is making the heart sick.” Do you really want to make someone you care about sick at heart?

How does Jehovah God feel about what I am doing? The Bible says that “all things are naked and openly exposed to the eyes of him with whom we have an accounting.” (Hebrews 4:13) So if you’re covering up your own dating—or that of a friend—Jehovah already knows about it. And if deception is involved, you have good reason to be concerned. Jehovah God feels strongly about lying. Indeed, “a false tongue” is listed prominently in the Bible among the things that he detests.—Proverbs 6:16-19.

Really, if you date secretly, you rob yourself of the protection that you can have when your relationship is aboveboard, out in the open. Not surprisingly, some who secretly date fall into sexual misconduct. Jane, in Australia, tells of a friend who secretly dated a boy from school and led a double life. “By the time her dad found out she had a boyfriend, she was pregnant,” Jane says.

Certainly, you would do well to talk to your parents or a mature Christian adult about any secret relationship that you may be involved in. And if you have a friend who is dating secretly, do not share in his or her course by helping to cover it up. (1 Timothy 5:22) After all, how would you feel if the relationship had harmful consequences? Would you not be at least partly responsible? Suppose a friend who is diabetic is secretly eating sweets. What if you found out about it, but your friend begged you not to tell anyone? What would be your most important concern—covering up for your friend or taking action that could possibly save his or her life?

The same is true if you know someone who is dating secretly. Don’t worry about permanently ruining your friendship! In time, a true friend will realize that you were acting in his or her best interests.—Proverbs 27:6.

“I Knew What I Had to Do”

Jessica, mentioned at the outset, changed her mind about dating secretly when she heard the experience of another Christian who was in the same situation. “After hearing how she broke off the relationship,” Jessica says, “I knew what I had to do.” Was breaking up easy? No! “This was the only boy I had ever really liked,” Jessica says. “I cried every day for several weeks.”

Yet, Jessica knew something else—that she loved Jehovah and that although she had got sidetracked, she truly wanted to do what was right. In time, the pain of breaking up subsided. “Now,” Jessica says, “my relationship with Jehovah is better than ever. I’m so grateful that he gives us the direction we need at just the right time!”

More articles from the “Young People Ask . . .” series can be found at the Web site www.watchtower.org/ype

[Footnotes]

Some names in this article have been changed.

See the article “Young People Ask . . . When Can I Start Dating?” appearing in our issue of January 2007.

TO THINK ABOUT

▪ Look back at the three situations highlighted in bold on page 27. Which, if any, of these describes how you feel at times?

▪ How can you address the matter without dating secretly?

[Box on page 28]

Secrecy or Privacy?

  Not all secrecy surrounding dating involves deception. Suppose that a young man and woman who are of an age to get married would like to become better acquainted but that for a time they wish to maintain a measure of privacy. Perhaps, as a young man named Thomas said, “they don’t want to be teased with questions like, ‘So when are you getting married?’”

  Undue pressure from others can indeed be harmful. (Song of Solomon 2:7) Therefore, at the initial stage of a relationship, some couples may well choose to be discreet—while being careful not to isolate themselves. (Proverbs 10:19) “This gives two people time to decide if they’re serious about each other,” says 20-year-old Anna. “If they are, then they can go public.”

  At the same time, it would be wrong to hide your relationship from those who have a right to know about it, such as your parents or the parents of the person you are dating. If you cannot be open about your dating, you should ask yourself why. Is your case similar to Jessica’s that was mentioned at the outset of this article? Do you know in your heart that your parents would have valid reasons to object?

[Box on page 29]

A NOTE TO PARENTS

  After reading the preceding article, you may wonder, ‘Would my son or daughter date behind my back?’ Note what a number of youths told Awake! about why some may be tempted to date secretly, and then think about the accompanying questions.

▪ “Some kids aren’t finding comfort at home, so they decide to lean on a boyfriend or girlfriend.”—Wendy.

As a parent, how can you make sure that the emotional needs of your children are adequately cared for? Are there improvements you can make in this regard? If so, what are they?

“When I was 14, an exchange student asked me to be his girlfriend. I agreed. I thought it would be nice to have a guy put his arms around me.”—Diane.

If Diane were your daughter, how would you address this issue?

“Mobile phones make secret dating easy. Parents have no idea what is going on!”—Annette.

What precautions can you take when it comes to your children’s use of cell phones?

“Secret dating is much easier when parents don’t keep a close enough eye on what their children are doing and with whom.”—Thomas.

Are there ways you can be more a part of your teenager’s life and still allow him or her appropriate freedoms?

“Often parents aren’t home when their children are. Or they are too trusting about letting their children go places with other people.”—Nicholas.

Think of your child’s closest associate. Do you really know what their activities involve when they are together?

“Secret dating can happen when parents are overly strict.”—Paul.

Without compromising Bible laws and principles, how can you “let your reasonableness become known”?—Philippians 4:5.

“In my early teens, I had low self-esteem and I craved attention. I began e-mailing a boy in a neighboring congregation and fell in love. He made me feel special.”—Linda.

Can you think of some healthier ways that Linda’s needs could have been fulfilled at home?

  Why not use this article and this page as a basis for discussion with your son or daughter? The best countermeasure to secrecy is heartfelt and forthright communication. It takes time and patience to discern the needs of a young person, but the rewards make the effort worthwhile.—Proverbs 20:5.